TABLE WITH A VIEW: SJA committee member PHILIP BARKER gives us his take on the British Sports Awards 2017
It is rare to find Hannah Cockroft lost for words but that was almost the case at the Pavilion at the Tower of London during our British Sports Awards .
It was the moment she became the first para athlete-elected sportswoman of the year by the full membership of the SJA. In more ways than one it was a ground-breaking year.
“I like to make history, but this is just something new. Recognition is a nomination because you never expect to win. You see awards like this and you always think it is just the pity vote, the politically correct vote. You see yourself up there alongside sporting giants and think that’s nice.”
Cockroft enjoyed a stellar year in which she won three world titles in front of an adoring crowd at the IPC World Championships in London.
She told host Jim Rosenthal she still has designs on another career too. “I’d like to go on tv screens and no-one ever to forget my face.”
HANNAH COCKROFT ON THE ‘PITY VOTE’ AND BECOMING A TV STAR
This year was also a groundbreaking one for women’s cricket. The World Cup final was an astonishing spectacle, with 26,000 banging at the doors of Lord’s to witness it.
Little wonder England were voted SJA Team of the Year. President Patrick Collins was mightily impressed by Anya Shrubsole’s fabulous bowling against India. His award was tailor-made for such exploits.
“I was actually pretty average throughout the rest of the tournament and without everyone else we would never have got to the final. It is a team game,” said Shrubsole. “To win, in England, at the home of cricket, it doesn’t get a lot better.”
The National Lottery generously sponsor our event and their Spirit of Sport award went to Olympic hockey gold medallists Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, trailblazers on and off the field.
“For Helen and I being a same sex couple, we feel we have grown up in a sport where we feel comfortable in our own skins. We know not everyone is as fortunate, we feel everyone should have the ability to be the best of themselves,” said Kate.
“We are National Lottery babies,” said Helen. “We have really benefitted from that. We wouldn’t have been where we are without it.”
Football offered another great partnership. The brothers Cowley guided non-League Lincoln to the FA Cup quarter-finals and promotion for good measure .
“We work well as a pair. We are only as strong as each other. Trust is such an important commodity in football and we have that between us,” said Danny Cowley. It’s all apparently down to playing Championship Manager with Nicky on the computer when they were kids.
Despite two world taekwondo gold medal, Bianca Walkden has unfinished business and is determined to upgrade Olympic bronze from Rio to Tokyo 2020 gold.
“This is the one thing missing. It is why I am still here,” she said before having everyone in stitches at admitting she loves nothing more than “kicking someone in the head.”
BIANCA WALKDEN ON HER OLYMPIC DREAM AND TRYING TO KICK SOMEONE IN THE FACE
A bigger share of coverage for women’s sport is one of the true legacies of London 2012. They inspired Sophie Hahn to achieve world class. Her double gold at the IPC Para World Championships also earned her the Bill McGowran Award.
The men’s recipient was Alfie Hewett, a rarity amongst British tennis players with victory on the clay at the French Open. Rather like two other notables in his sport, mum was a major influence.
“She was a big reason why I got into disability sport. She got the ball rolling. Andy Murray is also a big inspiration, I’ve seen the comebacks he’s had to make from injury, I like his perseverance.”
It was a day when an old-fashioned autograph book would have come in handy. Gordon Banks, fresh from the World Cup draw in Moscow, was ambassador for our charity, the Alzheimer’s Society. It is a condition which has affected at least three of his 1966 team-mates.
Then there was Brendan Foster, winner of the JL Manning Award for his contribution as athlete and respected tv commentator.
His last major championships saw Reece Prescod reach the 100m final. This earned him the Peter Wilson Trophy for best international newcomer presented by Foster. The 4x100m relay squads came up with another fairy story to win gold and the Pat Besford trophy for the outstanding performance.
For the first time, we had two FIFA World Cups in the room. True they were for the Under 17s and Under 20s. Will there be another in twelve months time? Howard Wilkinson, winner of the SJA Chairman’s award, set down the blueprint for the present structure.
“We have prepared the players to be better travellers and some of the senior team have benefitted from that. The signs we have seen over the last four or five years are very promising.”
The Russian team won’t need to be good travellers next February after their Olympic ban. In a room of newsmakers, the SJA’s Faye Carruthers found World Anti Doping chief Sir Craig Reedie to explain why.
“The IOC took the right decision. It’s all a bit of a balance. No sports official really wants to stop people taking part in sport but they will have to do it under the rules,” said Reedie.
With a room full of elite, clean athletes, it was a message everyone wanted to hear.
- Froome, Cockroft and women cricketers win top prizes (including a full list of winners)
- SJA 2017 British Sports Awards in pictures
The Alzheimer’s Society is our charity partner for the British Sports Awards and the British Sports Journalism Awards.
Unite now – text UNITE to 70677 to donate £3 a month or visit alzheimers.org.uk/donatetoday